“You say coming over on a boat is illegal, on a small boat?” That was the question Sky News’ Kay Burley put to the foreign secretary, James Cleverly, this morning. He replied: “Yes”.
So, is he right?
As FactCheck has previously reported, the answer is complicated.
Under existing British law, it’s illegal to enter the country without a visa or special permission. That means someone who reaches the UK on a small boat could face up to four years in prison.
But people who make the Channel crossing are protected by international law if they claim asylum once they arrive.
That means they can’t be punished while their application is being considered – and if they’re successful, they won’t be prosecuted for the way they arrived.
So, arriving by small boat is only illegal if you don’t claim asylum – or if you make an asylum claim and it’s rejected.
Though, even then, the chances of someone being prosecuted are thought to be low.
Robert McNeil, deputy director of the Migration Observatory at the University of Oxford, explained to FactCheck last month: “I don’t think people tend to be prosecuted for irregular arrival if they are unsuccessful in claiming asylum”.